Monday, October 8, 2012

80's Horror Week: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Welcome to day one of 80's Horror Week! If you follow this blog, you may know that I had previously done a week called "Not on DVD Week", which has a name that explains itself. So, why 80's horror? Mostly because I find it a fascinating period. Case in point: today's film. I remember seeing today's film, "Night of the Creeps" on VHS in either the late 90's or early 2000's. My impression of it was positive, and thankfully it still holds up well. There's nothing worse than finding a movie you might have enjoyed in the past that you revisit and don't care much for.

Peeping Zom

Anyway, "Creeps" starts in the late 50's with an alien experiment crash landing on earth. At a local make-out point, said experiment (an alien slug that kills and infects the host, turning them into zombies) infects a girls boyfriend, and to make things worse for her, she's killed by an escaped maniac who kills her.

27 years later, Chris (Jason Lively) and his pal J.C. (Steve Marshall) wanna hang out with the cool kids. When Chris sees the girl of his dreams Cindy (Jill Whitlow), he will do anything to get with her-even try to join a fraternity and get involved in a prank. Said prank involved finding a corpse and putting in on the steps of a rival fraternity. They do find a corpse that happens to be frozen in a lab. Unfortunately, said body is the infected boyfriend from years ago, and he's only sort of dead. As bodies pile up and zombies start to grow in number, it's up to our heroes and Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) to put a stop to the undead menace.

 At the "Grizzled Detectives Society" meeting, things were turning ugly

I think the main reason "Night of the Creeps" stands out so well is because it harks back to a slightly less cynical time. This is a film that has likeable main characters that are very well acted, though it's Atkins who steals the show. One or two of his lines sorta fall flat, but he's so wonderfully written, and carries a dry sense of humor combined with genuine humanity, and the actor plays the part perfectly. Plus, it's a film that never feels mean spirited. If this had been made today, it would lack the youthful naivety of it's younger characters. There's a real sense that writer/director understands the pressures and foibles of life on either a college or high school campus to the lengths people will go to for love when they are younger.

Also worth mentioning that while this has plenty of the hallmarks of 80's horror (female nudity, gore, zombies and practical creature effects), this is a movie that at heart is an homage to 50's genre films. Everything from the alien menace to the upcoming school dance to it's depiction of college life mostly feels like it could have been lifted from on of those films, and it's all the better, as it adds to the B-Movie charm. That's the biggest strength the movie has to it too-it's got oodles of charm. This is a movie that doesn't want to offend or talk down to it's audience. It just wants them to have fun with the ride, and it succeeds by offering fans of these kinds of tongue-in-cheek horror films what they want without being stupid or needlessly disgusting.

I Think I saw a cat that looked just like this a few months ago

I wish more zombie/comedy movies were more like "Night of the Creeps." There's nods to other horror films, but they never feel overwhelming. There's a sense of humor, but it never feels stupid or forced. It takes place on a college, but it never indulges in cheap stereotypes. It's the kind of thing that's got tons of heart, enthusiasm and a surprising amount of humanity, and I welcome it with open arms.

Rating: 9/10

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